NO. 1 EWU VS. NO. 5 DELAWARE
What: Football Championship Subdivision National Championship
When: Friday, Jan. 7, 4:05 pm
Where: Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas. TV/Radio: ESPN2/ESPN 700 AM.
Records: Both teams are 12-2
Keys to game: Both teams run and throw the ball well. Eastern’s defensive statistics suffer from playing in the wide-open, pass-happy Big Sky Conference, but they also have a knack for making big stops at key times. The Blue Hens lead the FCS with just 11.5 points allowed per game.
A famous philosopher — it was probably Socrates or Vince Lombardi — maintained that it was better to be lucky than good. Nicholas Edwards and the Eastern Washington University football team are taking no chances. They’ve decided it is best to be lucky and good (with help from some clutch performances).
Edwards, a sophomore wide receiver from Tacoma, has played a major role in leading Eastern to Friday’s national championship game.
Relatively quiet during the 11-game regular season (31 catches for 337 yards and two touchdowns), he has led the Eagles in three playoff games with 20 receptions for 203 yards and four touchdowns.
Edwards tied a career high with eight catches in Eastern’s playoff opener and, in the quarterfinal, set up the game-tying extra-point kick by catching a touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the game. Then he posted career highs of nine catches and 82 receiving yards (with two touchdowns) in last week’s semifinal.
“He’s just coming into his own, he really knows what he’s doing out there,” quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell says. “He works harder than I do. It’s hard to say as a quarterback, but he does.”
Edwards is big (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and fast (4.57 seconds on grass in the 40-yard dash), but he received no football scholarship offers after starring on weak teams at Foss High School. He was headed to Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College when Eastern made him a last-minute walk-on offer.
“He’s absolutely exceeded, obviously, any level that people thought he would be coming out of high school,” Eastern coach Beau Baldwin says. “That’s a credit to his work ethic.”
Edwards, an affable young man who recently became engaged to high school sweetheart Macca Diaz, says he has always prided himself on hard work. He became even more determined, however, when no schools offered him a scholarship.
“I knew I was an elite receiver … I knew I should have earned a scholarship out of high school, but I didn’t,” said Edwards, who eventually earned one from Eastern. “It made me hungry to get a scholarship.”
Edwards credits his work ethic and unselfish attitude to his family life in the rugged Hilltop section of Tacoma. A devout Christian, Edwards plans to coach high school football or help youth in some other manner once he’s done playing.
“I see what type of people that come out (of the Hilltop),” Edwards says. “I didn’t want to be that. I wanted to be somebody.”